On December 29, when Panvel resident Rajesh Kulal boarded the Jamnagar Express to Mangaluru to visit his wife, he was unaware that it would land him in a hospital, drugged and looted of his belongings.
Rajesh’s wife celebrated her birthday on December 27. But unable to make it to Mangaluru where she works at the time due to expensive flight tickets, he decided to visit her a few days later.
His plan originally was to take the Netravati Express. But he missed it.
With no other option, he decided to travel without a confirmed seat in the Jamnagar Express, in the general compartment.
He was promised a seat after Ratnagiri by one of the commuters.
The train started moving. It wasn’t a surprise when an elderly man, a co-passenger, started speaking to him. From the window seat to the upcoming elections, the conversation transitioned over time.
Speaking to the Mumbai Mirror, Rajesh adds how the elderly man excused himself at one point. He was to meet a friend in the neighbouring compartment, he had said. By the time the man returned, three more men sat around them.
As the clock stuck 6, the men started passing around food and water, also insisting Rajesh to eat with them.
After a bite or two, Rajesh started feeling dizzy. When he woke from his slumber the next morning, he had reached Mangaluru.
But his two cell phones, Rs 15,000 in cash, credit and debit cards—had all gone missing!
Before he could process the information, he fell unconscious. The railway police was quickly alerted and rushed him to the nearby government hospital where he was diagnosed with food poisoning and a cracked rib due to the sudden fall.
He tells the publication, “The elderly person acted very friendly and even showed me photographs and videos of his family. He said he was going to visit them. I was hesitant but later warmed up to him. The three men also didn’t behave strangely,” adding that the men offered chapatis and orange biscuits to co-passengers.
It was difficult to contact his family since his phones were missing. But fortunately, once he gained consciousness, he remembered his uncle’s number and scribbled it down. He could hardly speak.
The incident, as scarring as it was, passed.
Rajesh barely thought that he would come face to face with his perpetrators again.
Almost 14 days later, on Monday, the 31-year-old electrical contractor was travelling in a Churchgate fast, when he saw the three men who had drugged him.
But how did he recognise them?
“One was wearing a familiar jacket. He had offered me water on Jamnagar Express,” Kulal told Mirror.
Using his presence of mind, he nabbed one of them. But the other two men jumped out of the train.
Wasting no time, he called the Railway helpline number ‘182’ and handed over the accused to an RPF official. This accused was identified as 35-year-old Deepak Sahu.
A resident of Madhya Pradesh, Sahu was a part of a gang with a record of similar offences.
Lauding the victim’s alertness, Anoop Shukla, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner with the Western Railways’ RPF, pointed out how the quick helpline response system helped in nabbing the accused.
The Andheri RPF has now handed Sahu over to the Panvel GRP. A case under sections 328 (causing hurt by means of poison, etc, with intent to commit an offence), 379 (punishment for theft) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the IPC have been registered against him.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)